In a golden time for Nebraska high school recruits, Daniel Kaelin’s carved out a space all his own.
The Bellevue West standout came off the bench in four games as a freshman. He received four Power 5 offers before his first high school start as a sophomore. He learned to manage a Class A football game that sophomore season, completing about 60% of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions. While the in-state quarterback spotlight shined elsewhere, “Danny Dimes” came into his own in 2022. Kaelin threw for 3,186 yards with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the Thunderbirds. He not only elevated his own game but rising prospects Isaiah McMorris and Dae’vonn Hall prospered with Kaelin at quarterback.
Colleges are calling while he prepares for a senior season. Not just those nearby like Iowa State and Kansas State who have benefitted from Nebraska recruits, but programs across the country. He threw at the Warren Academy Showcase on Sunday, not shying from an opportunity to polish his skillset.
“It’s huge, just getting everybody out here from the Metro area,” Kaelin said after the workouts. “We all kind of know each other, so it’s good to see everybody, too. Steve put on something like this is huge for us in terms of getting exposure, working on our craft.”
Kaelin spent part of his winter break not only working out at the Omaha Sports Complex, but on the West Coast. The work doesn’t stop. Sure, he pinched himself when the first offers came in and every offer since is still special. But he knows this is a byproduct of the work.
Nebraska was among the first four schools to offer Kaelin. The Huskers extended him a scholarship in May 2021, along with Florida State. Arizona State and Kansas soon followed. Since then he’s gained offers from Missouri, Rutgers, Michigan State and Kansas State. He’s gained more attention in the last month with college coaches evaluating his junior film. He called it a blessing and a process. Colorado and Miami have separated themselves from that pack. He plans to visit both of them, and a few others, by the end of the month.
Then there’s the backyard team. Nebraska’s new coaching staff is still making Kaelin a priority. The 3-star prospect, No. 3 ranked recruit from Nebraska in the 2024 recruiting class, attended a Junior Day last month. The staff arranged that as a way for in-state recruits to meet coaches. Kaelin said he really liked head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Marcus Satterfield, and he’s looking forward to developing a relationship with them.
“They want to win. I feel like that’s the No. 1 thing with them. They’ve got a winning energy,” Kaelin said. “Coach Rhule has had a track record of turning things around. There’s a good energy about them and they mean business.”
Rhule and his staff stressed their intentions to keep Nebraska’s homegrown talent in the state. The last Nebraskan to start at quarterback for the Huskers was Noah Vedral against Indiana in the 2019 season. Before that was Nebraska’s last bowl game when Grand Island native Ryker Fyfe started in the Music City Bowl in 2016.
While Kaelin navigates the recruiting process, he remains focused on playing at Memorial Stadium for a different reason. He and a potent ensemble of playmakers return to Bellevue West this fall with the intention of playing for a title. The quarterback said they’ll have a lot of talent but it’ll take a lot of work in the offseason to get there. And he’s alright leading by example. That’s why he returns to Warren Academy and works with coach John Teigland in quarterback training, to fine-tune his mechanics. But that’s not the only thing he’s focusing on this offseason.
“I think the biggest thing I want to see myself improve on and already started work on is improving my overall athleticism. Getting bigger, faster, stronger in every aspect,” he said. “So I think just by this offseason I want to be in my peak athletic form. That’s what I’m working on.”